Right away, I’ll say that this sounds like High on Fire. The good news is I don’t find myself believing that the guys in Warped Cross heard Matt Pike’s most prolific band and decided just to copy his approach. The members of Warped Cross are veterans of the German doom scene, and their experience pays off with this album. The band would like to compare themselves to the likes of Eyehategod and Crowbar; I just find that comparison a little misplaced. It certainly has a sludgy groove to it, but missing is the drugged-out urgency found in the sound made famous by southern Americans. You could say they’re a stoner doom band as well, but the sound is missing the airy psychedelic vibe of other bands of that style. I’d think a hybrid of High on Fire with the lumbering groove of the Pepper Keenan era of COC would be an apt comparison here.
The album gets started with a heavy and bluesy doom number. From the start, we get that fuzzy guitar tone and a good idea of what the rest of the album will be like. The vocals are melodic but gruff, a sound that fans of High on Fire or Cathedral will welcome warmly. “Vote With a Cross” got me into such a groovy doom mood, that the driving punk drumming at the beginning of “Beautiful Mind” almost took me by surprise. Not unlike the aforementioned High on Fire, it still works quite well with what they’re trying to do. “Beautiful Mind” eventually finds that mid-paced groovy pocket and swings along quite nicely. The rest of the first half of this album trudges along with a bit of swagger, and includes some nice melodic guitar work that I feel adds an extra layer to the otherwise simple blues riffs at the backbone of this music. There are various changes in tempo through the latter half of the album that give it a nice variety to keep your attention, and to keep the songs from sounding too much the same.
What I think I enjoy best about Abbot of Unreason is that overall the songs are quite short. This is an album that doesn’t bore you to tears with the same riffs for 8-10 minutes at a time. This album is straight to the point, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I have listened to so many 70-minute-long doom metal albums; this is a breath of fresh air to me. The musicians in Warped Cross know what they have to say, they say it, and then they leave the room and let you clean up after them.
Every time I listen to this album, I go back to a comparison to High on Fire. Maybe it’s the vocals, maybe it’s the occasional thrashy flourish in the drums, maybe it’s the riffing style. In this context I make the comparison as a compliment and not as a point of criticism. I love High on Fire, and I think Warped Cross builds on that foundation and still forges their own way. I would think this music is best enjoyed live, with a can of beer, a shot of whiskey, and a fist in the sky. Riffs for days, crushing guitar tone, and just enough groove to put a wicked smile on your face. Crank it up.